Commissioner Jim Donelon kicked off his summer storm tour last month hoping to raise awareness for hurricane and flood preparedness with experts predicting an “active” hurricane season for 2011, which began June 1. The Commissioner continued his media appearances throughout the month of June.
With hurricane season upon us and the recent Mississippi and Atchafalaya flooding, Commissioner Donelon is imploring consumers to protect themselves and their property against Louisiana’s most frequent and unpredictable natural disasters – hurricanes and floods.
Although Louisiana has been fortunate enough to have had uneventful hurricane seasons for the past couple of years, Commissioner Donelon reminds citizens that they should not become complacent this year. He urges everyone to protect their homes with flood insurance as well as sufficient property insurance.
Because traditional homeowner’s policies do not cover flood damage, flood insurance offered through FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) provides Homeowners, business owners and renters with the best protection available against flooding. Currently, only 29 percent of the state’s households have flood insurance, Donelon reports. Residents should be aware that NFIP policies do not provide coverage in excess of $250,000 for homes and $100,000 for contents. If additional coverage is needed, excess flood insurance may be purchased through private insurers.
Contact your insurance agent who can assist in obtaining an NFIP policy. The average flood insurance policy premium is around $500 a year. However, if your property is located in a low- to moderate-risk flood zone you may be eligible for a low-cost Preferred Risk Policy, which can start as low as $119 a year. Almost 20 percent of all flood claims occur in low to moderate-risk areas. Most flood policies take 30 days to go into effect so don’t wait until a storm is coming to purchase flood insurance.
Check with your agent to find out exactly what types of damages are covered in your homeowners policy to make sure you have proper coverage for your home and property. When choosing the coverage that is best for you, the following tips may be helpful:
- Be sure to recognize the difference between replacement cost coverage for your home and actual cash value. Actual cash value refers to the replacement cost of the item minus depreciation, while replacement coverage is the cost of replacing an item without deducting for depreciation. Additionally, request a recalculation of the replacement cost value once a year because the automatic increases provided by a policy might not be enough to maintain adequate coverage amounts.
- Do an annual check-up with your insurance company to be sure you cover any increases in cost of labor and materials, additions to the home and any special purchases, such as art and jewelry that may need to be insured separately.
- If you have any special items like art, jewelry or collections (such as stamps or coins), be sure these are covered. Photos and/or proof of their value, such as receipts or professional appraisals will streamline the claims process.
- When it comes to the deductible — the amount you have to pay if there is a loss — usually the higher it is, the lower the premium. It’s normal to consider raising a deductible to save on premium, but remember, your share of the bill will be that much more following a claim.
Additionally, renters are also encouraged to purchase a renters’ policy. Your landlord’s insurance only covers the structure. No contents or personal belongings are covered unless a renters’ policy is in place. These policies are typically inexpensive and provide essential coverage in case damage to personal property occurs.
Individuals can learn more about their flood risk and storm preparedness by visiting www.ldi.la.gov or calling our nationwide toll-free number 1-800-259-5300.
Residents can also visit www.FloodSmart.gov or call 1-800-427-2419 for more information about flood risk and the benefits of purchasing a flood insurance policy. Another source of great tips on preparing for hurricanes is the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Emergency Preparedness’ “Get a Game Plan” Web site found at www.getagameplan.org.